This is a compilation of Tennessee news and political stories assembled daily by staffers in Gov. Bill Haslam’s office.
Republican Bill Haslam has been re-elected to a second term as Tennessee governor. The outcome of Tuesday’s election was widely expected, as Haslam faced no serious opposition either in the primary or the general election. He beat Democrat Charlie Brown, who raised no money in his bid for office. This year’s re-election campaign was a far cry from Haslam’s first run for governor four years ago, when he faced a spirited nomination fight with U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey. Haslam went on to defeat Democrat Mike McWherter by 32 percentage points in 2010.
Gov. Bill Haslam coasted to victory Tuesday evening, easily securing a second term as governor. The Republican former mayor of Knoxville drubbed his competitors, defeating six other candidates considered long shots from the onset. The Associated Press called the race in Haslam’s favor minutes after the polls closed at 7 p.m. Although the final vote total wasn’t tallied as of deadline, Haslam was ahead of the nearest challenger by 50 percentage points with about half of all precincts reporting. If that percentage holds it would be the third largest margin of victory for a governor in the last half century, according to data from the Secretary of State. “I think the good news is Tennessee is moving in the right direction, and I’m really grateful that people would give me the opportunity to continue doing this job for four more years.”
Voters Tuesday gave Republican William Edward “Bill” Haslam a second term as Tennessee’s governor that promises to be considerably more challenging than his re-election campaign. “Tennessee has moved too far to turn back now,” the governor declared to cheering family, cabinet members and supporters in a victory speech. “I think Tennessee is moving in the right direction and I’m grateful Tennesseans have given me this opportunity to do this for another four years.” He vowed to “double down on making hard decisions on our budget” never to “back up in terms of expectations of our students” — the latter remark a reference to anticipated efforts in the Legislature next year to repeal Common Core standards.
Gov. Bill Haslam coasted to a second term Tuesday night, likely racking up the largest victory margin for a Tennessee chief executive since Republicans began seriously contesting gubernatorial elections here 44 years ago. The outcome was never in doubt as Haslam defeated six token candidates who did little or no campaigning, including Democrat Charlie Brown, a Morgan County retiree, and perennial candidate John Jay Hooker, an independent this go-round. With 1,922 of 2,065 precincts reporting, Haslam had 71 percent of the vote. “I’m really grateful that people would give me the opportunity to do this job for four more years,” Haslam told supporters at a victory celebration in Nashville.
Governor Bill Haslam easily won reelection last night, taking the stage to deliver a victory speech less than an hour after polls closed. Haslam said he plans to spend his second term doubling down on the policies that marked his first four years in office–particularly when it comes to raising student test scores, trimming the state budget and aggressively recruiting businesses. “Tennessee has moved too far to turn back now. We’ve moved too far to being the kind of place that we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in. We’ve moved too far in terms of real progress in education.” Speaking to reporters afterwards in a short media availability, Haslam said he hasn’t started asking cabinet members whether they want to stay on, but said he’s happy to keep them all.
There was no question on Election Day that Bill Haslam would return to the governor’s mansion. The Republican head of state coasted to re-election. The real test for Haslam begins as he enters his second term — one that comes on the heels of the rockiest legislative session of his tenure. It also coincides with speculation nationally as to whether the former Knoxville mayor might have bigger political aspirations. Second terms are when legacies are cemented or lost, and Haslam will spend the next four years trying to craft his own. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said they’re looking forward to working with Haslam this year. Both are expected to keep their leadership positions, and both have hinted some educational and health initiatives from the governor will meet opposition.
In its second term, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration hopes to draw even more foreign-based business investment to Tennessee by building international air travel in a state that currently has no hub airports. Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty talked about the air travel dilemma as Tennessee topped a state-by-state ranking for foreign business investment. The Global Location Trends report, compiled by the IBM Institute for Business Value and released this week, measures the number of jobs created by foreign-owned companies during 2013. By that standard, Tennessee was No. 1, with 116,000 jobs among 864 foreign-based companies who have invested more than $30.1 billion in capital spending in the state.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty along with Original Footwear officials announced today the company will begin new manufacturing operations at 5968 Commerce Blvd. in the Morristown Airport Industrial District. Specializing in creating tactical footwear for law enforcement, military and emergency medical technicians, Original Footwear will invest $10 million and create 182 new jobs in Hamblen County. “We want to thank Original Footwear for choosing Morristown for its latest operations and creating these new jobs in Hamblen County,” Haslam said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau today announced a fourth offering of the Clean Tennessee Energy Grants, totaling $2 million, to fund energy efficiency projects for municipal governments, county governments, utility districts and other similar entities across Tennessee. “We want to commend local governments and districts across Tennessee for taking these steps to improve their energy efficiency,” Haslam said. “These projects funded through these grants in cleaner alternative energy, energy conservation and air quality improvement help reduce taxpayer costs and benefit the environment, both positive outcomes for Tennesseans.”
Men posing as employees of the Tennessee Department of Transportation have been approaching homeowners about driveway repairs, according to a news release from TDOT. The men claim Chattanoogans must make certain repairs to their driveways within 30 days, and if they fail to do so, TDOT would repair it for a fee of $80 per square foot. The release said these men are not TDOT employees. The three or four men were reportedly in a “white, crew-cab work truck with no emblems on the side,” the release said. One man wore a lime-green safety vest. “Our employees are in marked vehicles and carry identification, plus this is not the way we do business,” the release said.
Tennessee voters Tuesday approved a constitutional change that will give state lawmakers more power to regulate abortion and also gave a nod to three other amendments on the ballot, including one that will give the Legislature more power over the selection of judges. The most hard-fought of all the amendments was also the closest race with about 53 percent of voters favoring stricter abortion regulations. Shelby County voter Angela Goekler said she voted for Amendment 1 on Tuesday out of concerns about the safety of facilities that provide abortions. “I don’t want to see somebody get in a situation where they’re in a place that’s not licensed or not regulated and end up having problems, because you’re putting the mother’s life at risk also,” she said.
Tennesseans apparently ratified all four amendments to the state constitution Tuesday, including the controversial Amendment 1 giving the state Legislature power to restrict abortion and, if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned at the national level, to ban abortions in the state. Voters also: Repealed their right to “elect” the five Tennessee Supreme Court justices and 24 state appeals courts judges and replaced it with a system in which all 29 judges will be first appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. Voters will get their turn at the end of the judges’ terms, deciding whether to retain or reject them for second and subsequent terms (Amendment 2). Banned the enactment of personal income taxes and payroll taxes measured by income, by the state and by all city and county governments (Amendment 3). Allowed the state Legislature to authorize, by two-thirds votes of both the House and Senate, an annual lottery event for the benefit of nonprofit veterans organizations (Amendment 4).
In Rutherford County, voters are either hot or cold in their feelings about proposed Amendment 1 to the state Constitution. The proposed measure that would give state lawmakers more power to regulate and restrict abortions. Prior to casting his vote at Blackman High Tuesday, Michael Davis said he supported the proposed legislation. “From my own understanding it just gives people information about abortion. It doesn’t really stop the abortion, it just gives people more information about it before they make that decision, so I’m voting yes,” said Davis, pastor of New Vision Baptist Church’s Inner City ministry. On Wednesday, MTSU released partial results of its annual poll, which indicated a close vote may be in store for the amendment. The recent poll of 600 registered voters, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Tennessee voters by a solid margin backed Amendment 1, a measure that gives state lawmakers more power to restrict and regulate abortions. The measure was perhaps the most closely watched and most contentious Election Day vote in Tennessee’s midterm elections, which had few contested high-profile candidate races this year. It also was one of the most expensive ballot measures in Tennessee history. It passed with 53 percent of the vote, but there was a clear urban and rural divide, with Davidson County voters opposing the measure by a 2-to-1 margin, and voters in Shelby, Knox and Hamilton counties voting against the measure. Its passage has no immediate effect on abortion policies in Tennessee. But it will give lawmakers far more power in enacting abortion regulations and restrictions in Tennessee.
Tennessee voters on Tuesday opened the door for the biggest changes to the state’s abortion rules in more than a decade. With the approval of constitutional Amendment 1, the Legislature will be empowered to pass more regulations on abortions — an ability that was deterred by a 2000 Tennessee Supreme Court ruling that said the state constitution was more protective of a woman’s right to an abortion than the U.S. Constitution. No more. As of press time, the amendment was leading by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent, though voters in Hamilton County and six other counties rejected the ballot initiative. Volunteer State voters also approved three other constitutional amendments.
The Yes on 1 campaign is hailing the passage of the abortion amendment as an “underdog victory.” Amendment opponents say it was an “uphill battle” that left them disappointed. Both sides expect to see new regulations on abortion proposed by the General Assembly next year. Supporters of Amendment 1 say they want to see a mandatory waiting period before the procedure and a requirement that all abortion clinics to be licensed as surgical centers. These laws were on the books before a state Supreme Court case struck them down as unconstitutional — prompting legislators to propose changing the constitution. David Fowler was among the first to do so.
Tennesseans approved a change to the constitution that reshapes the way the state selects judges. Yes on Amendment 2 had 61 percent of the vote with roughly 90 percent of precincts reporting. The no campaign had 39 percent. It also easily surpassed half the number of all votes cast in the governor’s race, as required by the constitution. Before the amendment passed judges were selected by the governor, following the provisions of the 1971 “Tennessee Plan.” With the amendment passing, the governor still appoints judges. However, those judges would be subject to approval by the legislature and an unopposed referendum vote from the general public every eight years.
Tennesseans upheld by a wide margin a system of appointing the state’s top judges. That’s the result of voters passing Amendment 2. Yes on 2 supporters sought to re-write the state’s constitution preventing Tennessee from ever going to a system of directly electing the state’s appeals judges. The campaign succeeded by a 60 to 40 margin. Those championing the amendment argued that its passage would make for more predictability in the judiciary, which would lead to more business-friendly conditions. What that really boiled down to, though, was putting an end to lawsuits over the system. Furthermore, supporters contended that the amendment added a layer of accountability by requiring that any appeals judge nominee be approved by both chambers of the state legislature.
Voters have cemented Tennessee’s status as one of just nine states without a tax on personal wages. A constitutional amendment clearly banning both income and payroll taxes was approved with roughly two-thirds of the vote. Watching returns at Governor Bill Haslam’s victory party, State Rep. Barry Doss said he felt the income tax measure was one of the most important items on the ballot. “You heard the governor tonight say that we created 176,000 jobs in this state,” Doss said, “and I think the number one reason is because we’re a tax-free state.” The amendment does not do away with the existing Hall Income Tax, which applies to dividends and interest. Efforts to do away with that tax are expected to reemerge in the next legislative session.
Democratic Nashville attorney Jeff Yarbro won the state Senate District 21 race Tuesday night by a margin of almost two-to-one. The district has been Democratic since 1970 — and represented by Douglas Henry all that time. The 88-year-old senator announced his retirement this year, opening the door for Yarbro, who lost to Henry in the 2010 primary by just 17 votes. Yarbro will become one just five Democrats in the Senate. “The math is the math and five is fewer than 28, but I do believe that each one of these people has been elected to focus on not just issues that matter to Democrats or Republicans, but the issues that matter to everybody in Tennessee,” Yarbro said Tuesday night.
State Rep. Mike Sparks is poised to return to the Tennessee General Assembly for a third term with a nearly 2-to-1 vote lead over retired minister Mike Williams Tuesday. Sparks, R-Smyrna, led Williams, D-Smyrna, by a 7,434 to a 4,229 margin with returns from most Rutherford County precincts. The winner will represent La Vergne and parts of Smyrna when sworn in for another term in January. The incumbent said he would focus on highlighting issues including mass transportation and the cost of college textbooks if elected for another term. Williams had called for an expansion of Medicaid and a delegation of duties he alleged had been taken by state government back to local cities and counties.
With early voting down a bit, Williamson County Election Commission officials were surprised to see a significant uptick in activity at the polls Tuesday night. But as far as the race for state House District 65, the results were the same: With 40 of 42 precincts reporting, incumbent Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham, with 73 percent of the vote, was handily defeating Democrat Bill Peach.Of 16,464 votes cast, Durham received 12,058, Peach got 4,367 and 39 went to write-in candidates. “That’s an impressive total, but I would have been happy to win by one vote,” said Durham, who at just 30 years old appears to be a rising star in the state GOP ranks. Durham says he is eager to get back to work and fight for the interests of those who live in Williamson County.
Two years after redistricting knocked him out of office, Kerry Roberts will be returning to the State Senate in District 25. The Springfield businessman was leading the race against Tony Gross, D-Kingston Springs, with 70 percent of the vote. He received 29,329 votes to Gross’ 12,315, according to the Associated Press. Roberts ousted incumbent Sen. Jim Summerville, of Dickson, in a heated August primary to secure the party’s nomination. Gross, of Cheatham County, was uncontested for the Democratic nod. Roberts spent just under two years in office representing Robertson and Sumner counties in District 18 before statewide redistricting placed him outside the boundaries of his seat in 2012.
Thelma Harper has retained her state Senate District 19 seat, which she has represented for more than two decades. The 73-year-old senator far outpaced a Republican and an independent vying to represent a district made up largely of African-American neighborhoods in North Nashville and Bordeaux, as well as parts of downtown, Edgehill and southeast Davidson County. With half the precincts reporting, Harper had 14,457 votes, compared to a combined 5,039 for two challengers combined. Harper secured several potent endorsements and even a contribution from Mayor Karl Dean. Not as though Harper has needed it. She far outspent her competitors and still had more than $18,000 on hand for the final week of campaigning.
Courtney Rogers coasted into a second term as State House District 45 representative, besting Democrat and political newcomer Steven Puckett Jr. The Sumner County district — that includes parts of Hendersonville, Goodlettsville, Millersville and White House — has been a Republican Party stronghold for more than a decade. With all 27 of the precincts reporting, Rogers garnered 75.2 percent of the votes — 12,182 votes to Puckett’s 3,955. “I think this shows that Team Rogers wasn’t an anomaly (two years ago),” Rogers said on Tuesday. “The people really do want government that supports their constitutional rights.”
The Knox County district, with a long history of going Republican for a lightning rod-like state senator, chose a conservative in Richard Briggs, though he expects to receive less attention. Briggs, a Knox County Commissioner, won the 7th District of the state Senate on Tuesday, beating Democrat Cheri Siler with 27,935 votes to her 14,876 in unofficial returns. Previously he beat Stacey Campfield in the primary, an incumbent with a history of showing up in national headlines for what some called antics. “He never lost a race,” Briggs said. That is, until Briggs outspent and arguably out-hustled Campfield in the summer primary. Briggs took two-thirds of the vote then, a total that was close to the margin he won with in the general election over Siler.
Republican challenger Eddie Smith took the lead in early and absentee votes in the election battle against incumbent state Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat representing the 13th District House seat for the past two years, and although at one point during the evening Johnson led, Smith eventually triumphed in Tuesday’s hard-fought campaign. Smith had 6,729 votes and Johnson had 6,546 for a 183-vote difference, according to unofficial results. Johnson told Democrats at the Southern Depot that she isn’t through with politics and she was thinking about running for chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party. She said she could continue to fight for issues she believes in, such as public schools and equal pay, in that position.
Democrat Sara Kyle, a former Tennessee Regulatory Authority director who campaigned for creating jobs and safer neighborhoods, won the Senate District 30 race Tuesday night with 69.8 percent of the vote to Republican George Flinn’s 26.8 percent. The district includes North Memphis, Raleigh and Frayser, as well as parts of East Memphis, Midtown, the Medical District and South Memphis. “It was just fantastic,” Kyle said. “I’m very appreciative the district came together. They’re focusing on what matters. I’m ready to go to Nashville.” Kyle was a Memphis City Court judge, Tennessee legislative staffer and an elementary school teacher. Her husband, Jim Kyle, held the Senate seat until August.
Ed Jackson began preparing more than two years ago to run for the District 27 State Senate seat. Two years of phone calls, door-to-door meetings and speeches paid off Tuesday when Jackson, a Republican, defeated Democrat Randy Lamb and Constitution Party candidate Tim York. Incumbent Democrat Lowe Finney did not seek re-election and is running for mayor in Jackson. When he was certain of victory on Tuesday night, a relieved Jackson addressed a crowd of supporters at the Madison County Republican Party election night watch party at the Old Country Store. “It’s been a long road, but it’s been fun,” Jackson said. “We’ve finally made it to tonight thanks to all of the volunteers, and I see a room full of you. I just can’t name all of you.”
With all precincts reporting for Tenn. House District 74, results show Republican challenger Jay Reedy, with 52 percent of the vote, has defeated longtime Democrat incumbent John Tidwell. Reedy received 5,400 votes to 4,985 for Tidwell. As the Republican nominee, Reedy cited his leadership ability during the campaign based on his experiences as both an enlisted soldier and later as a commissioned U.S. Army officer. He is also a farmer and small businessman. Said Reedy, “This victory is by the grace of God, but I would also like to thank my family for their support through all of this. And I would like to thank Mr. Tidwell for 18 years of dedicated service to this didtrict and to the state. And I must thank the state Republican party and especially the College Republicans, Young Republicans and Republican Women who were critical to giving me this victory.”
A referendum on the Tennessee ballot for supermarket wine sales was outstripping opposition in early voting returns Tuesday night. Seventy-eight municipalities collected enough signatures to place the referendum on the ballot. Of those, voters in more than 60 communities were voting in favor of the referendum, according to early election returns. No votes were immediately reported in the rest of the communities. Voters in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City all voted to support the change. The final determination will be made by a simple majority vote in each community. Currently, wine can be sold only in liquor stores. But a state law that passed this year will allow it to be sold by grocery and convenience stores starting in July 2016 if citizens vote to approve the change.
After seven years of debate, Nashvillians will finally be able to purchase Chardonnay with their Cheerios, but not for another 20 months. The city was among several Middle Tennessee municipalities approving a referendum that would allow wine to be sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and big-box retailers, a measure that will go into effect beginning July 1, 2016. “It bears out what we have known for the seven years we’ve been fighting this fight,” said Rob Ikard, Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association president. “Tennesseans overwhelming want to buy wine where they buy food.” With all precincts reporting, 79 percent of Daviison County voters supported wine sold in grocery stores.
Wine wins. Voters in Chattanooga and five other Hamilton County municipalities overwhelmingly approved the sale of wine in grocery stores. The win is a victory for grocery stores and consumers who want the convenience of picking up a bottle of wine with their regular shopping. But sales aren’t slated to start until mid-2016, though Tennessee Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey hopes he can get that changed to the middle of next year. “We’ve heard overwhelmingly from the customers that they want to be able to buy wine with their groceries,” said Bi-Lo district director Rodney Dillard. “It’s a convenience factor. It’s one less stop they have to make.”
Wine will flow from area grocery stores beginning July 2016 after voters in Knox County and surrounding cities removed restrictions requiring it to be sold in liquor stores only. Wine also will be available in Farragut, Maryville, Alcoa, Lenoir City, Oak Ridge, Clinton and Norris. Months after the General Assembly passed legislation putting the decision in the hands of local communities, 78 counties and municipalities across the state took up the issue Tuesday. “We’re extremely pleased, and we couldn’t be happier with the residents of all localities where we do business,” said John Jones, Food City’s executive vice president for Knoxville operations. “We’re looking forward to people buying wine with their groceries, a convenience they’ve requested for years.”
After seven years of debate in the Tennessee Legislature, voters in Shelby County’s municipalities voted to allow the sale of wine in food stores. However, the law won’t allow wine to come to area grocery and convenience stores earlier than July 2016. It’s been a long fight and the success countywide shows that consumers want the convenience of being able to buy wine with groceries, said Randy Stepherson, with the local Red White and Food campaign and president of SuperLo Foods. “We’re looking forward to being able to sell that first bottle of wine on July 1, 2016. We’ll have a lot of time to plan for it,” said Stepherson, whose family-owned chain has six stores in Memphis. More than 30 states allow wine sales in food store, he said.
Grocery stores in Bristol, Tennessee, will be able to start selling wine during the summer of 2016, following Tuesday’s referendum. Voters were asked whether they are for or against the sale of wine at retail food stores in the city of Bristol. According to unofficial results late Tuesday, 3,547 people voted for the sale of wine in stores and 1,672 voted against it. The referendum was on the ballot in 78 Tennessee municipalities, also including Kingsport and Johnson City, and voters in all those localities approved the sales. In Kingsport, 7,672 voters supported wine sales and 3,501 were against sales. In addition, 89 Johnson City voters in Sullivan County supported wine sales and 14 voters were against sales.
Voters in all three Tri-Cities decided overwhelmingly in Tuesday referendums that retail food stores should be allowed to sell wine. The measures passed easily without organized opposition from members of the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association, which represents package store owners. Kingsport voters cast 7,907 “yes” votes and 3,629 “no” votes. In Johnson City, the measure passed 8,885 to 3,555. In Bristol, Tenn., it passed 3,547 to 1,672, according to unofficial returns. Wine in grocery stores was also approved in both municipal referendums held in Hawkins County — winning by a vote of 453 to 347 in Rogersville and a vote of 853 to 513 in Church Hill.
Voters in the Tri-Cities are uncorking a bit of the bubbly after soundly approving the expanded sale of wine in supermarkets in all the upper Northeast Tennessee municipalities faced with the question. Referendums allowing wine sales in retail food stores passed in Johnson City, Jonesborough, Elizabethton, Kingsport and Bristol, according to election commissions’ unofficial results. In Johnson City, including the parts dipping over county lines in Carter and Sullivan counties, the measure passed by the largest margin, with 71 percent approving and 29 dissenting, a difference of 3,936 votes. Jonesborough likewise advanced the proposition, 1,008 to 495, a margin of more than a third.
As an old wine advertisement stated, “We will sell no wine before its time.” “And now it’s time,” said state Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, sponsor of the legislation that allowed Murfreesboro and Smyrna’s referendums that will allow wine to be sold in grocery stores. Murfreesboro and Smyrna voters agreed with Ketron and overwhelmingly passed the referendum. In Murfreesboro, about 76 percent of votes were cast in favor of selling wine in grocery stores. In Smyrna, the margin was slightly closer with 70 percent of the vote in favor of the referendum, with two precincts still outstanding at press time. Ketron was the guiding force behind compromise legislation that allowed local referendums to allow wine to be sold in supermarkets and convenience stores.
Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander easily won what could be his final election in a storied political career, beating Democrat Gordon Ball by a decisive two-to-one margin and helping install a new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. Alexander, as of 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, finished with 803,509 votes, or 62.4 percent of the vote, compared to 404,158 votes, or 31.3 percent, for Ball. A group of 10 third-party candidates finished with the remaining 7.3 percent. Because Republicans captured control of the Senate, his win put Alexander in position to be the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee. His victory has also stabilized political ground back home for Alexander, whose conservative credentials had came under attack over the past year from tea party enthusiasts.
Tennesseans gave U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander a decisive vote of confidence on Tuesday, handing the veteran lawmaker a third term in office over Democratic challenger Gordon Ball. With three-quarters of precincts reporting, Alexander, a Maryville Republican and former Tennessee governor, had 63 percent of the vote. Ball, a trial attorney from Knoxville who has never held public office, had 31 percent. The outcome of the race was clear the minute returns started trickling in. Alexander jumped out front early, with a lead that was so commanding that news organizations projected him the winner within minutes of polls closing across the state.
Republican incumbents in Tennessee’s 3rd and 4th congressional districts easily beat back Democratic challengers Tuesday. U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Chattanooga attorney, defeated Oak Ridge physician Mary Headrick with support from nearly 62 percent of voters. Headrick earned just over 35 percent and Independent Cassandra Mitchell captured just under 3 percent of the vote, with 256,909 ballots cast. After declaring victory just after 9:30 p.m., Fleischmann said he looked forward to serving the entire 11-county congressional district. “The greatest people in the world, the people of the 3rd District of Tennessee, have spoken and spoken loudly,” the Ooltewah Republican said.
East Tennessee Republicans held onto their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, with wins by all three incumbents. “This is going to be a big night for the Republican party across the country,” said Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, who was celebrating with his party at the Crowne Plaza hotel downtown. Duncan and Rep. Chuck Fleischmann handily won their races, as did embattled Rep. Scott DesJarlais. DesJarlais, whose 4th Congressional District spans several counties from Middle Tennessee to East Tennessee, won Tuesday’s general election over Democrat Lenda Sherrell. Unofficial results showed DesJarlais defeated Sherrell by 79,114 votes to 46,917 votes, with 88 percent of the precincts reporting results late Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais will return to Congress handily defeating Democrat Linda Sherrell on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press. In Rutherford County, DesJarlais has a 16 percentage point lead over Sherrell and an even wider lead in his overall district as votes continued to be returned. The overall Fourth Congressional District gave DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, an even wider lead over Sherrell, D-Monteagle. Returns showed DesJarlais had 78,361 votes, while Sherrell had 46,786 votes. Independent Robert Doggart received 8,288 votes in the congressional district, according to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office. Nearly half of those votes came from Rutherford County.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, ranked as one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress, breezed to a third term on Tuesday, downing Democratic challenger Lenda Sherrell after months of contentious campaigning. With 64 percent of precincts reporting, DesJarlais was leading with 59 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Sherrell. Independent candidate Robert Rankin Doggart had 6 percent. En route to victory, DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburg, overcame a bout with cancer and a renewed onslaught of negative ads focusing on salacious details from his 2001 divorce. His illness cut into his time on the campaign trail, and DesJarlais had to fight through a competitive primary challenge from state Sen. Jim Tracy.
U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn was elected to a seventh term Tuesday night representing Middle Tennessee’s 7th Congressional District. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Blackburn had 70 percent. Her Democratic challenger, Dan Cramer of Clarksville, had 27 percent. Libertarian Lenny Ladner of Hohenwald had 3 percent. Blackburn’s conservative agenda of spending cuts, smaller government and a strong military were popular in the district, which includes the area south of Fort Campbell, Ky., and the wealthier suburbs of Nashville. “I appreciate the voters of the Tennessee 7th Congressional District going to the polls, exercising their sacred right to vote, and choosing to send me to Congress to work for them,” Blackburn said in a written statement.
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper was re-elected Tuesday to a seventh term representing Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District. Cooper, a moderate Democrat known for bipartisan cooperation and bucking his party leadership, defeated Republican Bob Ries. With 51 percent of precincts reporting, Cooper had 62 percent and Ries, 36 percent. Independent Paul Deakin had less than 2 percent. Cooper, 60, celebrated his victory with supporters downtown in historic Rutledge Hill. “I could not be more grateful,” Cooper said in a phone interview Tuesday night. Asked about the expanding Republican majority in the House, Cooper said, “I’m a Blue Dog Democrat, so I’ve always worked well with the other party, but now it is a job requirement. We have to put country first and politics last, and get America back on track. Nashville is doing really well and we need to follow the Nashville model nationally, and that’s community leaders working together for the good of all us.”
Shelby County’s Congressional delegation is heading back to Washington. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, the 9th District Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, the 8th District Republican, cruised in general election battles most observers thought they would win with relative ease. The Associated Press called both races within an hour of polls closing. Cohen was facing Charlotte Bergmann, 61, a small-business owner and former FedEx employee. Bergmann first sought the 9th District seat in 2010, when she received 25 percent of the votes against Cohen. Bergmann lost in the GOP primary in 2012. Fincher, of Crockett County, was facing Wes Bradley, a sheriff’s deputy in Henry County.
Technology gaps in HealthCare.gov are expected to cause consumers and insurers a fresh batch of complications after the site reopens for health-plan enrollment this month, insurance-industry officials say. Millions of Americans are expected to buy or change plans using the federal portal when the second year of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins Nov. 15. But some back-end parts of the system have had problems and others haven’t been built, triggering difficulties that could affect tens of thousands of people when new plans kick in next year. Consumers who bought policies on the exchange for 2014 and switch to a different insurer for 2015 could end up enrolled in two plans, with bills for both, in January, according to two industry officials.
The Tennessee Department of Education has released its state report card, and Shelby County Schools still has room to grow in terms of achievement. MBJ reported on individual school’s proficiency in TCAT and ACT scores in our A+ Schools series. Here are some highlights from the latest report based on 2013-2014 data: SCS has 277 schools and nearly 150,000 students; 68 percent of students are economically disadvantaged; 22 percent of black students were suspended last year, compared to 4 percent of white students; 75 percent of students graduated from high school last year; SCS spent an average of $10,333 on each student, which goes to transportation, maintenance and materials; 96 percent of students scored at least proficient in their TCAPs.
Congress’ inaction on finding a long-term solution to adequately funding the Federal Highway Trust Fund has put major road projects in jeopardy, including several in the Memphis area. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, foreshadowed this predicament in June when he and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut called for a 12-cent hike in the federal gasoline and diesel fuel tax over two years to permanently shore up the trust fund, which helps pay for highway and transit projects. The trust fund was scheduled to be insolvent by the end of summer. The idea of a tax increase did not fly with some members of Congress. Instead, Congress approved $10.8 billion in August to keep highway fixes going until mid-May. It was yet another stopgap funding move for the trust fund. Congress has approved some 25 short-term highway funding bills over the last five years. Now the chickens have come home to roost.
With the election over, perhaps Congress will get to work and do something about the federal Highway Trust Fund, which has been blamed for the most recent delays on the U.S. 45 Bypass redesign. Although Congress recently shored up the Highway Trust Fund, with $10.8 billion, there apparently was not enough left for the $1.7 million right-of-way phase in the project to improve road conditions in West Tennessee. Just over six weeks ago, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer called the planned improvements to Jackson’s roadways a priority because the current state of our section of I-40 is a “safety hazard.” Schroer said we hit all the markers for priority: Safety, congestion and economic development.
Big news for Tennessee: Little will change here except that next year we should be able to buy wine in grocery stores. Here in the 3rd District, we’ll still have U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann whose empty GOP suit is only filled by PAC money. Mary Headrick, who would not accept PAC money, still garnered at least a third of the vote. In the 4th District, we’ll inexplicably still have U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, but Democrat and political newcomer Lenda Sherrell pulled almost 35 percent of the votes in one of the most conservative of conservative districts. But it looks like Georgia is destined to be in the news a lot more, given the results — or squeaky closeness of them — in the Peach State’s Senate and governor races.
Tennesseans were saying with their votes late Tuesday they’re willing to trust their legislators to suggest and pass common-sense regulations on abortions and to advise and consent on the governor’s choices for state Supreme Court and appellate court judges. They also were overwhelmingly saying they wanted the state constitution to forbid an income tax and wanted military organizations to have the same opportunity as other charities to hold legislature-approved, gambling-type fundraisers. Whether the “yes” votes on the state constitutional amendments receive 50 percent (plus one vote) of the total in the governor’s race was undetermined as of press time. The trending “yes” vote on Amendment 1, making the state constitution neutral on abortion, would be galling to pro-abortion supporters, who were certain they would win.